Strawberry-Peach Preserves

Strawberry-Peach Preserves
Last Thursday I visited the Homegrown Alabama farmers market. Quite fortuitously, they had a good selection of strawberries and early season peaches- two fruits i’d been looking for since receiving my copy of Sarabeth’s Bakery: From my Hands to Yours, which includes a recipe for her Strawberry Peach spreadable fruit. I canned about six half-pints, and we’ve eaten our way through one of them (plus two sticks of salted Irish butter) in less than a week. They are excellent on the above-pictured French sandwich bread from the Continental Bakery and equally good on rosemary bread.

This was my first experience canning with proper equipment, and it was significantly less stressful than my previous attempts. The most onerous steps were prepping the fruit and waiting for the water to boil for jar sterilizing and processing. I’m beginning to think that what intimidates me about canning is not food safety, but cost. With baking, it’s easy to add things like butter and sugar to my weekly grocery list and not notice how they’re impacting my budget. I also have equipment i’ve collected over the past decade. Canning has lots of up-front costs. It also requires storage space for both the equipment and the finished product.

I’ve started reading Food in Jars, which may be my new favorite blog. It has extremely helpful tips and equipment reviews, and lots of step by step photos of how to do all these things. I’m not sure I will ever be that prolific a canner- but i’d like to at least learn enough to be creative and produce the flavors/textures I enjoy. This recipe was fairly straightforward, though my cooking time was much longer (I think I had the heat too low).
Continue reading Strawberry-Peach Preserves

Learning to Can

Radish Relish
I’m trying to learn to can with confidence. To me, canning is a foreign skill perfected by 50’s housewives, pioneer women, and their descendants. I’ve always thought of it as a means to save money or combat scarcity- not as a way to preserve seasonal bounty or enjoy the luxuries of ripe summer produce during the depths of winter.

Maybe the tornado changed my mind. All week, i’ve been fantasizing about filling my cabinets with jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, and other condiments. I want something to spice up boring meals on the nights i’m too tired to cook. I want something to thrown on pancakes when there’s no syrup left in the fridge. So, I made learning to can a summer goal. I ordered a bunch of canning books from interlibrary loan and made a list of all the things i’d like to try.

My first few attempts were slightly nerve-wracking. I wasn’t ready to invest in canning equipment, so I used a soup pot, some metal tongs, an impromptu canning rack made of jar rings, and a ladle. In my first three tries (two jams, one relish), I dropped a jar, I burned myself with boiling water, and I spilled 220 degree jam all over the outside of the container I was trying to put it in. Tiring of the potential for mess and injury, I bought an inexpensive canning set. I hear you can find those for much cheaper, so keep your eye out.

This was the last recipe I made before acquiring canning equipment. It’s a tasty radish relish that’s great on steamed vegetables or fish. The recipe comes from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ’em Up!, which is a great book if you’re intimidated by canning and want to start with small batches. Canning & Preserving with Ashley English is another good title. It doesn’t have as many recipes, but it does a good job explaining techniques.

Over the next few weeks i’ll try to keep you updated on my progress. I have several books and types of jars coming in, and i’m looking forward to experimenting.
Continue reading Learning to Can

Death Star vs Millennium Falcon Pie

Death Star vs Millennium Falcon Pie
I am still recovering (mentally, emotionally) from last week’s tornado devastation. We are lucky to have our health and our home intact. If you would like to make a donation to the relief effort, you can do so here: http://www.uwwa.org/donatenow.html.

Posts have been sparse lately, so I wanted to leave you with this pie I made over the weekend. I used a half shortening-half butter crust, but feel free to use your favorite.
Continue reading Death Star vs Millennium Falcon Pie